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Unseen Kashmir - Bungus and Lolab Valley - The call of the mountains

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A Flowerseller on his Shikara
A Flowerseller on his Shikara

Unseen Kashmir - Bungus and Lolab Valley -  The call of the mountains


Unseen Kashmir - Bungus and Lolab - The Planning


                                     My love for Kashmir once again made me plan a family holiday to the unseen parts of Kashmir. After so many back to back trips to Kashmir, now we do not require much planning. This time the plan was to start with Aharbal, trek till Kungwatan, Srinagar, Lolab valley and Bungus valley. I had been put across to Mr Asadullah CEO of Lolab and Bungus Development authority. When I called him up, he was warm and welcoming as the Kashmiris are and assured me of all the support. Told him the dates and the bookings of the guest houses were secured. For Aharbal, I called up my good friend Khursheed Ahmed and he booked a cottage for us. Srinagar stay was taken care of by a call to Mehraj and he booked a room in his houseboat for us. With accommodation issue sorted out, it was just the wait for D day.

white sheet at Pir Ki Gali after hailstorm
The white sheet at Pir Ki Gali after a hailstorm


Pir Ki Gali - Mughal Road Kashmir
Pir Ki Gali - Mughal Road Kashmir is the highest point on Mughal Road


                      On the fixed date we left home at our fixed time of 3.00 a.m. There are two routes from Jammu to Srinagar. One is the Jammu Srinagar highway NH 44 which actuall is Kashmir to Kanyakumari highway and the other is the Mughal road. Mughal road is so named as it is the old route to Srinagar and was used by Mughal kings to reach Kashmir. I dread the main highway for its traffic jams, which can last up to many hours. Since we are talking about the trip of 2016, Chaneni Nasheri tunnel which bypasses Patnitop one of the congestions and the Highway from Anantnag to Srinagar were also not open at that time. So I generally take the Mughal road as it has very less traffic, is more scenic and have never faced a traffic jam on this road. We crossed Jammu at around 8.00 and had our breakfast at Akhnoor. After this small pit stop, we started for Srinagar. Soon it started to rain. I continued driving in it. Near Bafliaz, the rains turned torrential and a hailstorm started, bringing the visibility to near zero. Incidentally, Bafliaz was Name of Alexender's Horse, on which he came all the way from Macedonia to India. At this place, his horse died and the place was named after his horse. 



                     I was still continuing very cautiously. The hails were pounding on the roof and windscreen of the car so badly that they will either break the windscreen or I will see a hammered texture on the roof of the car. But thank god no such thing happened. After driving in this hail storm for an hour or so, now the water streams were running on the road. It was not possible to judge potholes or any small rocks that might have come on the road. So I stopped at a small dhaba on the roadside and so did a number of other cars who were following my tail lights. In about another 30 minutes, the rain turned into a drizzle and we resumed our journey. When we reached Pir Ki Gali, mountain pass, and stopped for a cup of tea and nature's call, it was very cold and a sheet of white had been spread all around. Soon we were racing towards Aharbal our destination for the day.

Aharbal


                                          Aharbal is a small quaint village in Kulgam district of J & K. We have to take a diversion from the Mughal road and drive for 17 Kms to reach Aharbal. The 17-kilometre drive is heavenly. The road passes through either apple orchards on both the sides or Chinar and pine Jungles with a green carpet on the ground. A few small villages with wooden houses remind you of the old world charm. Aharbal is situated on the banks of river Veshu. This is a tributary of Jehlum. Aharbal is also famous for Aharbal waterfalls, also known as Niagras of Kashmir due to the volume of water. Though the height of falls is not that much, the volume of water its ferocity makes its a bit scary.

                       Aharbal is also a starting point for the trek to Kausranag. A high altitude lake, very sacred to Kashmiri Pandits. Kausarnag lake is also the source for river Veshu. It takes 03 days to trek to Kausanag Lake, but I had planned to trek to Kungwatan, a beautiful meadow half way to Kausarnag.


                                   We reached Aharbal in the evening and checked into the cottage. The restaurant was at a stone's throw. We ordered coffee as we checked in. It had rained in Aharbal also so it was wet all around. I shifted the luggage to the cottage as Anupma had a bad migraine. It was Ramadan month going on so we had to order for the dinner in advance. We got into the blankets and enjoyed the music of nature. The music of raindrops falling on the roof, the music of river flowing down there. Dinner was served in the room and was delicious.



                              When did the sleep engulfed us we did not realise. Next morning I and Anupma got up very early as usual. Kids were still sleeping. After freshening up, we went out for an early morning stroll. Yesterday's rain had made everything look so fresh. There was no sign of clouds now and it was a pristine blue sky. The sun rose while we were wandering through the orchards and it looked marvellous. We strolled around, were greeted by or greeted the villagers.

A beautiful Morning at Aharbal - South Kashmir
A beautiful Morning at Aharbal - South Kashmir

A beautiful sunrise at Aharbal - Kashmir
A beautiful sunrise at Aharbal - Kashmir


Apple orchards and the Sunrise
Apple orchards and the Sunrise

A walk in the orchards
A walk in the orchards

Some fields at Aharbal Kashmir
Some fields at Aharbal Kashmir

Raw apple @Aharbal - Kashmir
A new Hope - Raw apple @ Aharbal Kashmir

After rain everything looks so fresh at Aharbal - Kashmir
After the rain, everything looks so fresh at Aharbal - Kashmir


Old Guard and the new hope
Old Guard and the new hope - Father-son duo at Aharbal Kasmir


                After more than an hour, we came back and woke up kids. Everybody got ready soon. We ordered Paranthas for the breakfast. Our table was set up in the open. The Paranthas were not good, but who cares about paranthas when the vistas around are so amazingly beautiful. In the meantime, I had checked with Khursheed as he was to escort us on our trek to Kungwatan.





First view of Aharbal Falls
Downstream view of Aharbal Falls

Aharbal water Falls
Aharbal water Falls

                   After breakfast, we started towards Aharbal Falls. I and Anupma had seen it last year also, but kids were seeing it for the first time. It was a wonderful experience. The falls were beautiful. The gushing sound of water added an element of scariness to the beauty of the falls. A beautiful rainbow was created by the sunrays falling on the spray of water vapours emanating from the fall. We spent some time at falls enjoying its beauty, clicking photos. Luggage had already been packed and loaded in the car. By the time we were back, Khurshid had arrived and we embarked upon our trek to Kungwatan.


On the way to Kungwatan
On the way to Kungwatan


                    It was a very easy trek. Initially, it was a dirt track, quite narrow one. After walking for about half an hour, we were passing through green trees on one side and a meadow on the other. The river Veshwa was playing hide and seek. The sheep grazing on the lush green grass completed the picture. We were having a good time, walking, sitting, clicking. Everybody was having fun. Anupma was fast depleting her energy reserves and was having trouble in walking. Soon we reached a large meadow. It had a Gujjar hut built in the middle. In this meadow, we sat under a tree to rest for some time and have some snacks that we were carrying with us.


A shepherd manning his sheep
A shepherd manning his sheep

A Gujjar Hut amidst meadows
A Gujjar Hut amidst meadows

Meadows on the way to Kungwatan
How lucky these sheep are they get to have all their meals at this beautiful location

                      At this point, Anupma gave up and told that she did not want to go ahead. Sarthak also joined her. I and Jyotsna were told If we wish to go ahead we can go in such a terse tone and cold stare, which meant “ Don't you dare to go anywhere”. Anyways I knew We will not be going to Kungwatan so I and Jyotsna went a little ahead. There was a small bridge on the river, which we crossed and went ahead and reached a milestone called Sangam by locals. It was a confluence of two streams. We savoured the beauty of this place for some place. A shepherd who was passing by told us that Kungwatan was about 02 kilometres ahead. So we decided to return. This time we did not want to take the old path as it would mean going down and ascending again so we took another bridge which had a shed over it. While crossing we felt it very strange as the height of the tin roof over the bridge was very less. We had to bend at 90 degrees and cross it. We were wondering why was it so and so many obstacles also. When we had crossed the bridge we realised, it was not meant for humans. It was for carrying water supply pipes across the river.



Bridge on the way to Kungwatan
Bridge on the way to Kungwatan

The path on the right of river goes to Kungwatan
The path on the right of the river goes to Kungwatan

The Sangam
The Sangam

                         Anyways we reached the spot where we had left Anupma and Sarthak. I had also left Khurshid to stay with them. We together started the journey back. Some kids were looking after their sheep. A little lamb only a few days old caught Sarthak's attention. He wanted to hold it and cuddle it. For the next few minutes, we were watching him chase and the little lamb proved too fast for Sarthak. Finally, the local kid came to his rescue. He caught the lamb and gave it to Sarthak to hold it for some time.

The sheep Chase
The sheep Chase


Shepherd boy and the lamb
Shepherd boy with the Lamb who gave Sarthak a real hard time.

Mother-son discussing about something they missed.
Mother-son discussing about something they missed after crossing meadow on the way back

By 2.00 we were Left Aharbal for Srinagar. It being Ramadan month, it was very difficult to find food as the areas we were travelling doesn't see any tourists.


              Within 2 -3 hours we were at Srinagar. Everybody was famished. The first attack was at Krishna Dhaba even before the check-in.  After checking in the houseboat, and having a delicious and highly aromatic Kahwa, we came for a stroll on the Boulevard road and witness a beautiful sunset behind the boats

An evening at Dal Lake
An evening at Dal Lake


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